Being a travel agent can be fun, but it can also very stressful during storms, natural disasters, or anything else that may impact thousands of flights. Here are some tips and things I’ve learned during my nine years in the travel industry.
1. Stay calm. People will be cranky and you may get yelled at. That’s just the way it is. I understand that after being yelled at for the umpteenth time, you may have had it and get a bit snappy with your customer. Just remember that they’re stranded away from home. No, you don’t deserve to be treated that way, but don’t let the endless tongue lashing that you’ve gotten influence how you treat your next caller.
2. Keep up on the waivers. I like to have a browser window open and a tab for each of the impacted airlines with their storm waiver policy ready to go. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of which airlines are offering what options. This way, you have everything at your fingertips.
3. Know when to call and what number to use. Often, if it is a pretty straight forward ticket you are able to process the exchange without calling the airline. However, there are those goofy things that happen when you do need to call the airline. Make sure you have the most up to date agency number for each airline. This can really shorten your hold time. If you work for an agency with several agents, it is often in everyone’s best interest to have one person call with all the records for that airline that you need assistance on. This way only one person is tied up on hold and the rest of you are free to assist the callers.
4. Know the alternatives. Sometimes, when an airport is completely shut down, people will be willing to fly into a nearby airport. Be sure to ask them, and know what’s in the surrounding area in case the customer doesn’t. I can’t count how many times I’ve flown someone into an airport within 100 miles of their original destination and then got them a rental car. Some of these people are desperate to get home and this might just be their only way.
5. Be nice to the airline agents. They’re in the same boat that you are. I’ve found that showing them some kindness and compassion will go a long way with what they are willing and able to do. I’ve had airline agents help me get passengers re-booked on other airlines, sometimes airlines that they don’t even have agreements with. Remember that you’re all in the same situation trying to get everyone home.
And a bonus tip, take a short break if you need it. It can be overwhelming when you’re getting back to back calls from angry customers. It’s okay to take a minute or two and take a few deep breaths. It may just help you keep your sanity.